Eratosphere Forums - Metrical Poetry, Free Verse, Fiction, Art, Critique, Discussions Able Muse - a review of poetry, prose and art

Forum Left Top

Notices

Reply
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Unread 06-28-2019, 08:21 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,188
Default Rilke, Sappho to Alcaeus

Sappho to Alcaeus
by Rainer Maria Rilke

Fragment

But what, then, would you have to say to me,
and what could you be to my spirit, when
your own eyes are defeated and cast down
as the unsaid approaches? Don’t you see?

By the expressing of these things, we’ve been
transported and have garnered some renown.
When I think that our sweet virginity
beneath you men would perish miserably,

which we (I, blest with knowledge, and those blest
like me, protected by the god) have borne
untouched, so all of Mytilene might
smell of the fragrance of our ripening breasts,
sweet as an apple orchard in the night.

Yes, these breasts, too, the ones you did not choose,
as if for wreaths of fruit, you suitor whose
countenance is crestfallen. Begone
and leave me, so that to my lyre may come
what you’re impeding: all is at a standstill.

This god is no assistance to a couple,
but when he makes his passage through the one
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Revisions:
S1L4 "Look, man:" was "Weak man," then S1L3-4 was changed from "your eyes look downward ignominiously
at the approach of the unsaid? Look, man:"
S2L1 was "look: by the saying of these things, we’ve been"; then "by" was capitalized
S2L2 "arrived at" was changed to "have garnered"; then changed "great renown" to "some renown"
S2L4 was "beneath you would have perished miserably,"
S3L1-2 was "which we, I blest with knowledge and those blest / with me, protected by the god, have borne" then in S3L2 "with" was changed to "like"
S3L3 was "untouched, so that all Mytilene might"
S4L3 was "countenance is dejected. Go away"
S5L2 removed comma after "one"

Sappho an Alkaïos

Fragment

Und was hättest du mir denn zu sagen,
und was gehst du meine Seele an,
wenn sich deine Augen niederschlagen
vor dem nahen Nichtgesagten? Mann,

sieh, uns hat das Sagen dieser Dinge
hingerissen und bis in den Ruhm.
Wenn ich denke: unter euch verginge
dürftig unser süßes Mädchentum,

welches wir, ich Wissende und jene
mit mir Wissenden, vom Gott bewacht,
trugen unberührt, dass Mytilene
wie ein Apfelgarten in der Nacht
duftete vom Wachsen unsrer Brüste -.

ja, auch dieser Brüste, die du nicht
wähltest wie zu Fruchtgewinden, Freier
mit dem weggesenkten Angesicht.
Geh und lass mich, dass zu meiner Leier
komme, was du abhältst: alles steht.

Dieser Gott ist nicht der Beistand zweier,
aber wenn er durch den einen geht
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Literal translation:
Sappho to Alcaeus

Fragment

And what have you, then, to say to me,
and what could you be to my soul,
when your eyes cast themselves down
as the unsaid draws near? You man,

look: the saying of these things has
transported us, and all the way to renown.
When I think that under you our sweet
maidenhood would have perished miserably,

which we, I endowed with knowledge and those
with me endowed with knowledge, guarded by god,
have borne untouched, so that Mytilene,
like an apple orchard in the night,
might be fragrant with our ripening breasts—

Yes, these breasts as well, that you did not
choose, as if for wreaths of fruit, suitor
with the downcast countenance.
Go and leave me, so that to my lyre
may come what you prevent: all is at a standstill.

This god is not the assistant of two,
but when he moves through the one
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Last edited by Susan McLean; 07-01-2019 at 04:15 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Unread 06-28-2019, 03:39 PM
Allen Tice's Avatar
Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
Posts: 4,496
Default

Susan, I'm walking on gilded splinters here, but although there's much to like in the Rilke and your translation of it, I don't see anything like your "weak" of L4 in or around L4 in the Rilke. Nor does it seem consistent to me with my sense of the remaining fragments of Sappho. If anything, in what remains of her, she was very balanced in her treatment of others, and did not adopt a condescending tone. I don't think it's true to Rilke, or Sappho actually. Alcaeus conceivably could have spoken of a "weak woman" but Sappho was, I think, far above that kind of Archie Bunker slam of the other sex, especially an artist. Maybe a rewrite?
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Unread 06-28-2019, 10:15 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,188
Default

Allen, you are right that Sappho does not say "weak man," but I am struggling with how to translate the "Mann" of S1L4, because in English "man" sounds too slangy, but I am reluctant just to omit it. Sappho is contrasting Alcaeus, who is a man, with herself and her fellow female poets. She implies that he has rejected her before, and that she and her female followers have gone on to achieve fame. She seems to be implying that he has a proposition to make to her now that embarrasses him. Here is Edward Snow's note to this poem:

The poem takes its cue from an exchange between Sappho and Alcaeus recorded by Aristotle in his Rhetoric (I.ix.20). Rilke paraphrases it in a letter of 25 July 1907 to his wife: "Alcaeus was a poet, who on an antique vase stands before Sappho with head lowered and lyre in hand, and one knows that he has said to her: 'Weaver of darkness, Sappho, you pure one with the honey-sweet smile, words throng to my lips, but a shame holds me back.' And she: "Had you a wish in you for noble and beautiful things, and not base matters on your tongue, you would not have lowered your eyes in shame and would have rightly spoken.'" Rilke's Sappho (a forthright sensualist) seems to pick up where Aristotle's leaves off.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Unread 06-29-2019, 12:12 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,100
Default

Susan, I think the circumlocution and elevated diction are contradicting the image of Alcaeus hemming and hawing shamefacedly, while Sappho is more of a straight talker.

Isn't the point of the end of Q1 and the beginning of Q2 that they both became famous for expressing the ineffable or speaking the unspeakable? Why not just say that?

Using parentheses and an additional comma would help readers untangle the syntax here:

     When I think that our sweet virginity
     beneath you would have perished miserably,

     which we (I, blest with knowledge, and those blest
     with me, protected by the god) have borne
     untouched, so that all Mytilene might...

But the order of the first two lines of that sentence still creates confusion. I would suggest simplifying those:

     If you'd described our sweet virginity,
     I think it would have perished miserably,

     which...

And this line would also be a bit metrically smoother as:

     untouched, so all of Mytilene might...

(Assuming that everyone pronounces "Mytilene" the same way I do, with four syllables.)
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Unread 06-29-2019, 01:26 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,188
Default

Julie, I have taken several of your suggestions, but I think you and I are interpreting differently what Sappho is saying to Alcaeus. I think he is intending to proposition her, and she is standing up for herself and her women as virgin artists who have preserved their divine vision by NOT marrying men. So I think the "we" in S2L1 is Sappho and her women poets, who would have been miserable if they had given up their virginity to men by marrying, because then they could no longer dedicate their lives to the god of poetry.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Unread 06-29-2019, 08:59 PM
Allen Tice's Avatar
Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
Posts: 4,496
Default

Susan, what you’ve done so to L4 is a great improvement, But I’d suggest “sir” instead of “man”, and I’d preface it neutrally with “Oh”. That eliminates the troublesome American English associations found with any locution that includes “man” at the start of a sentence, especially a sentence expressing disagreement. Also, in your response are you confusing “propositioning” with “proposing to”? I agree that in her society, marriage for a woman very, very likely implied subordination, artistic and otherwise, to her husband, unless he was as noble as the possible father of Sappho’s daughter. [Now, the whole set of questions of Sappho’s little Kleis, and almost everything else about Sappho’s personal life, including whether she was partially orphaned, or married, or a mother, or both, are footballs for pressure groups and ideologues. With Sappho, it’s reading tea leaves in poor lighting, and the outlines of what I see and what you see are probably different. Somehow she got back from Syracuse in Sicily; there is little Kleis; Athenian misogynists made fun of Sappho unjustly; Alcaeus may have been ashamed of his initial dismissal of her brilliance, and even come around to desire her in his way - who knows?]. “Oh sir,” might be a place to go start.

PS. I got carried away by thoughts about Sappho, when you are doing Rilke. He has entirely his own agenda here, and knew even less about Sappho than we do now. Whatever Rilke was spinning here, and for whatever he thought his audience was, it’s his poem with his own quirks that he’s propounding: it’s Rilke’s take on things such as poetry and the “poet”, not Sappho’s necessarily at all.

PPS. A further possibly irrelevant note regarding the much mocked by now-unknown Athenian “comedy” writers of a possibly real husband of Sappho, “Kerkylas”, whose “name” is almost obscene. If so (see below), he might have often been absent for longish periods of time. In any case, there is a living Greek musical artist, Stefanos Korkolis, some of whose songs I like very much, e. g., vgale-to-kragion-take-off-your-lipstick. It’s an easy way to abase someone by twisting their name. Obviously, Korkolis was not ever connected to Sappho. But I regard it as entirely possible that there was someone real there with a somewhat similar name. Furthermore, Fragment 31 - phainetai moi kenos - has been discussed in a fairly recent issue of Classical Philology (U. of Chicago) as being a jealousy song directed at the other woman, not the man. If so, I would suspect that the other woman sitting opposite the “godlike” man (a blond fellow??, a seafaring merchant ??) was rather of a seaport tart. Despite all the ballyhoo in the other direction, this works very well for me, especially if set in Syracuse, Italy.

Last edited by Allen Tice; 06-30-2019 at 01:10 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Unread 06-30-2019, 10:11 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 4,952
Default

Good morning Susan,

I like German and English here alike. A few thoughts: "ignominiously" is a fairly charged word to be absent in the German; "Look, man" sounds a bit like "Look, dude;" "arrived at great renown" seems flat - perhaps "proceeded to renown"?; and "I, blest with knowledge, and those blest / with me" does not suggest to me that what they're blessed with is knowledge. Perhaps "blessed like me"?
Not sure if you still end with a comma. Rilke didn't, so I'd remove it.

Cheers,
John
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Unread 06-30-2019, 12:46 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,188
Default

Thanks for the suggestions. I have made some changes, including changing S4L3 to add a rhyme that was missing.

Allen, I don't think "sir" fits the context. As you mention, I am translating Rilke, not Sappho, and I am trying to stay close to what I think Rilke's tone is. I have tried just omitting the term of address, to get rid of the slangy "man."

John, I have removed "ignominiously," which was partly there to fill out the line, but the line still needed some filling. I took other suggestions of yours, including removing the comma at the end.

Susan
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Unread 06-30-2019, 12:53 PM
Allen Tice's Avatar
Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
Posts: 4,496
Default

Susan, the new L4 is fine. Good approach.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Unread 06-30-2019, 02:11 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 4,952
Default

Hi Susan,
I like your revisions. For "garnered great renown", how would you feel about "some renown"? The German has no qualifier, and great seems to me a bit jejune, a bit poetasterish. Not your modus operandi. Some has some interesting life to it, to my ear, which I think the German allows for.

Cheers,
John
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



Forum Right Top
Forum Left Bottom Forum Right Bottom
 
Right Left
Member Login
Forgot password?
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Statistics:
Forum Members: 8,016
Total Threads: 19,919
Total Posts: 254,963
There are 204 users
currently browsing forums.
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Sponsor:
Donate & Support Able Muse / Eratosphere
Forum LeftForum Right
Right Right
Right Bottom Left Right Bottom Right

Hosted by ApplauZ Online